Long Melford continued their surge towards the top of the Thurlow Nunn League First Division with a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Braintree Town Reserves.
After an even start it was Melford who took the lead after 14 minutes when a perfectly-weighted pass from Nathan Rowe released Jamie Griffiths, who finished from an acute angle with a left-footed shot.
Just four minutes later, the home side doubled their advantage as Ross Waugh’s free-kick was spilled by Braintree custodian Luke Banner, allowing Griffiths to double his tally from close range.
Undeterred by the setbacks, Braintree started to come into the game and went close to reducing the deficit with Dymon Labonne and Jack Tryer both firing inches wide.
The Villagers opened the second half strongly, with a poor clearance from keeper Banner finding Dan Swain, who sent his snapshot only inches past the post, with the Braintree keeper beaten.
However, the visitors responded strongly as they went close again after 53 minutes.
A defensive mix-up saw Melford keeper Darren Moyes lose his footing just inside the area, the loose ball came to Labonne, but his goal-bound shot was hooked off the line by Ross Waugh.
That pressure continued and they were finally rewarded in the 65th minute when Roberto del Perollo’s cross found Reece Sayers at the back post to head home.
This gave the Essex team a surge of confidence and they almost levelled shortly after as Moyes had to be alert to deny Luke Mallett.
However, with the visitors pouring forward in search of an equaliser, the Melford nerves were settled after 82 minutes as they were awarded a penalty following a foul on Jake Jackson by Joe Moore, who was also dismissed.
Griffiths took res-ponsibility and made no mistake from the spot, converting clinically to complete his hat-trick and seal victory for Melford.